Friday, June 2, 2023


Why aren’t there more RV parks? Good luck getting a new one approved!

RV sales have slowed and fewer people are buying RVs than has been the recent trend. Has that changed campground crowding? Is it easier to find a campsite now, particularly in state and national parks? Campgrounds are changing and evolving, some for the better and some for the worse. RV Travel readers discuss their experiences and offer a few tips to help other campers find that perfect spot.

Here are a few observations from our readers.

Better to rent a house or condo for the season

Jackie L. is rethinking their RVing snowbird plans for Florida winters. Here’s why: “We are snowbirders since retiring. We camp in Florida for 3-4 months from December—March. We have noticed more full-timers in the past three years. Also, the prices have gone through the roof. People don’t follow the rules of the campground and the campgrounds seem to be more interested in filling sites. The campground we stay at raised their prices by more than $300/mo. in one year. We now, due to overcrowding, have to book a site on Jan. 1st each year if we’re going to stay there or anywhere in Florida. We have been considering just renting a house or condo for the winter rather than towing a car and going to a laundromat, which is also an added cost when camping.”

Fear the government would hold them back

Nancy M. is thinking about building a small RV park in Florida but the red tape may just be too much. She explains, “We have 20 beautiful, mostly wooded acres bordering state forest land near the Florida Greenway. The one campground near here is full most of the year. We wanted to put in a campground (maybe small, 10 or 20 sites, at least in the beginning) and the county tells us that just to apply it costs $1,300 and there’s no guarantee it would be allowed. If just one neighbor makes a fuss at hearings, it might not be approved. That’s just the beginning. Lord only knows what other bureaucratic hoops would be inflicted on us. We are capable and prepared to do the infrastructure, but fear of the government holds us back. Maybe this is why demand exceeds supply so much.”

Best year of her life

Dorothy A. had a grand time traveling for a year. She writes, “Toured U.S. National Parks 2020-21 for a year. Had so much fun with two dogs. America is so beautiful! Kept the Transit to keep on truckin’ when arriving home instead of selling as planned. Hope to do more fun trips like that. Would never go to a paid campground! The entire year was blessed with free, safe sites in National Forests, BLM and free state, county, city, water district parks… It’s worth researching. Go have fun exploring all the possibilities! Best year of my life! P.S. Leave fear behind, it’s useless.”

Get creative and learn where the wild places are

Thomas T. is not going to reveal his favorite camping finds, but he says, “I do not rely on the hookups and amenities offered by many campgrounds, and consider them to be overpriced. The weekend and vacation crowd often use their site as a display of their toys and oversized, clumsy rigs. If I pay for a site, I would rather camp alongside full-timers. In my state, I often find myself opting for national forest land, or even (illegal) boondocking on state forest land. A small, quiet footprint is key, along with knowledge of the area. I do not share my campsites on social media. Some may see it as being selfish, but I am vehemently against posting the names of wild places on social media, or revealing locations. We live in the information age, and if people can’t find these places on their own, they simply need to get creative and learn how.”

Completely crazy in Canada too

Jean A. had to have three people online at once to get a spot. Wow! She writes, “We travel with a Cherokee Grey Wolf 31′ Toy hauler. Planning for two weeks Quebec Construction vacation (July 22nd to August 6th). We were looking for two campgrounds in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, or PEI. We started to search beginning of the year and became crazy looking, even at KOAs (we are members). Found no places available. Note that because of the weather, offices are closed but websites are available.

“Completely crazy, we had to have three people online at the same time to try to reserve. Finally, we succeeded to reserve by talking to local city employees. We never had to do it before. It is making vacation camping less fun. Note that it has been the same for vacations around Calgary last year.”

Bought RV in 2020, used it five times

Cindy S. is feeling the frustration of trying to find campsites, even with a membership. Here’s why: “My spouse and I bought a camp membership and new tent trailer in January 2020. Then came COVID. We have only used it five times, as every time we tried to go somewhere to camp, there were no vacancies, even looking months in advance.

“Even with our membership programs it has been difficult. We are always guaranteed a spot to camp in every one of their locations as well as their affiliates, but the places they want to put you are not anywhere you would choose to camp. The sites in the parks are small and crowded, and as others have said, they are taken up by full-timers staying the max time allowed. It is so frustrating, so we end up using motels instead. We are taking a month-long road trip this summer, and have our fingers crossed we will find decent places to stay.”

Take too long to decide

CJ R. has fallen into the (common) trap of taking too long to decide where to go. “Have been RVing for three years, not full-time. We are two adults with no kids at home at the later stages of our careers. We have found it a challenge to book RV sites, but that is often because we talk about it for plenty of time and then take too long to decide where we want to be. Also, we have found some sites more expensive than others; however, there is often a reason. Truly built for families with young children, or more high-end parks. While we will enjoy the high-end parks occasionally, we often find reasonable rates.”

“The voice of experience”

Alfred R. writes a warning about selling everything and going full-timing. “Do not take the bait and go full-time RVing. Keep your home base (home /apt.) at all costs, unless you’re absolutely destitute. You can thank me later…. The Voice of Experience.”

Now, some questions for you:

  • Are you finding campgrounds booked up? Or is finding a place to stay not a problem?
  • Are campgrounds changing for the better or for the worse?
  • Are you seeing more permanent and seasonal RV parks?
  • Are rising costs affecting your camping style?
  • If campgrounds continue to be crowded and RVing continues to become more popular, will it affect how or when you RV?
  • Do you have any tips or secrets you’d like to share about finding campgrounds that aren’t as crowded?

Please use the form below to answer one or more of these questions, or tell us what you’ve experienced with campground crowding in general.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column: RVers leaving RV parks behind, saying they don’t want to pay for ‘amenities’ or ‘folks just stopping by to say hi’


Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.


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Neal Davis
1 month ago

DW has a similar problem to CJ R, that is taking too long to make a decision. I now take the initiative if she is overwhelmed and unable to choose a destination, location, and dates for an RV trip. I suggest a destination and make sure there is at least one acceptable campground nearby (based on rates, utilities, and ratings) with availability for the duration of the trip. I give her two or three reasons for picking the destination and the timing of the trip. After approval, then i choose a campground and make reservations. We seem to travel more often and to desirable locations with us both contributing to the process.

1 month ago

Thomas T. is not going to reveal his favorite camping finds probably because as he says “I often find myself opting for national forest land, or even (illegal) boondocking on state forest land.” He also points out “I am vehemently against posting the names of wild places on social media, or revealing locations.” – probably because they are illegal. He’s the kind that gives legal campers a bad name.

Bill Byerly
1 month ago

I always enjoy this column every werk Nancy. I like to hear other peoples opinions on their overall experiences, thanks for putting it together !

1 month ago

The days of calling from the road when your 2 hours out is rarely a “good enough” travel plan anymore. It has taken some if the adventure out of the adventure. I think in time it will get back there a little bit but like everything, change happens. I admit to not recommending great spots as readily as I used to and especially not to newbies.

We will always have a sticks and bricks to compliment our camping lifestyle. I’d be fine without it but Veto power lies elsewhere in my world and as long as I have a shop to putter in and I don’t have to pick out the draperies, it’s all good.

1 month ago

Thomas T. has a point. Last week we were at a beautiful FCFS campground in Northern AZ right on the Colorado river far away from anywhere. 3 years ago you would be the only one here. Now it’s full every single day. All day & night a constant stream of people were driving through looking for a spot. We were lucky to get a site. One of the bath houses was permanently closed due to vandalism & the entire campground was getting trashed. I spoke to 3 people from out of state and one couple from Canada and they all said they came here because of a YouTube video they saw.

1 month ago

I agree with Thomas T. In fact, I don’t even write reviews of campgrounds I frequent anymore. Selfish? Maybe, but we all have the internet.

1 month ago
Reply to  billinois

Selfish? Yes it is. I use Campendium often and ensure that I review every campground I stay at on this platform. So many “me, me, me” campers out there.

Mo Botts
1 month ago
Reply to  billinois

I don’t do reviews either, or post every place we go to the internet. Old fashioned, but my business is my business!

Mike Waller
1 month ago

Unfortunately, Covid was a downside for RV’er’s but an upside for park owners. Now, the table is turning and, over time, we are going to see park spaces becoming more available. However, price places, like sate and national parks are going to stay tight for reservations in the near future, I think. Here, in Oregon, I can’t even book a state park on the coast within a 6 month window with my 36′ class A (smaller sites are sometimes available). It is frustrating which leads to those wanting to develop new parks. New parks will ultimately be too many, too late as I think the “RV thing” is going to drop back to where it was as people take back to air travel and hotel style accommodations. Us, we’re staying in the MH travel mode!

1 month ago

Alfred’s got a good point. I have dearly loved full-timing, but, I could use a home base, especially for the summer camping season, especially with rising costs. If someone has a paid-off or low-payment home, it’s very wise to keep it, for an eventual pause or stoppage of travel.

Buying in now, competing with investors scooping up properties and people loading up on 2 and 3rd homes; or renting from landlord corporations who literally use software to see how much they can gouge people, it’s rough out there to get back into a sticks-n-bricks.

1 month ago
Reply to  wanderer

I find myself agreeing with you. The good news is, home prices are dropping and will not find the bottom for a while longer but it’s coming. The new lending rules announced 2 days ago may or may not be good for you though. If your credit score is good, over 740, pay and extra 1% with 15 – 20 % down. If your credit score is under 640, get a 1.75% discount and only need 5% down payment. It is bad policy for most but it will blow a few people some good opportunity. Either way, good luck. Safe travels.

Bob M
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

I read the present administration is planning on doing according to what experts believe that borrowers with a credit score of about 680 would pay around $40 more per month on a $400,000 mortgage under rules from the Federal Housing Finance Agency that go into effect May 1, costs that will help subsidize people with lower credit ratings also looking for a mortgage, according to a Washington Times report Tuesday. So basically those of us that pay our bills and follow the rules will be penalized.

Bob Gates
1 month ago

As “mostly timers” for the past four years, my wife and I spend 8 months a year, in two trips, traveling this great country. We do plan ahead and use a Thousand Trails membership along with private parks. With a 40 foot motorhome, state and federal parks aren’t a good option for us. Our average cost per night has been less than $30 for the past two years and we drive the motorhome about 8,000 miles a year. While we don’t always get exactly what we want, we’ve never had a problem finding places to stay and have had very few bad experiences. When reading of others experiences, it’s important to understand what type of camping they’re doing, what kind of rig and if they’re referencing state and local or private parks. We’re having a blast and see no reason to slow down!

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

I agree with Thomas T. I won’t give up my special boondocking sites on social media. I will pass this info along to friends after they take a blood oath to not disclose these locations – 🙂

Tom H.
1 month ago

All good points but sites are out there. You just have to look. Yes, maybe not exactly where you want to be or what you prefer, but they’re out there. Just go. Don’t give in or up. As for Alfred’s “Do not take the bait and go full-time RVing. Keep your home base (home /apt.) at all costs, unless you’re absolutely destitute. You can thank me later…. The Voice of Experience.”, I have to say going full-time was the best thing we ever did. No stakes in the ground! Freedom!

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